The recent debuts of women-only areas at a prominent hotel and department store, as well as on long-distance buses, railway cars and airplanes, have generally been received favorably.
But there are persistent cries that women are being treated too well and that areas such as these are nothing but an exercise in reverse discrimination.
“Women experiencing serious inconvenience and unpleasantness are increasing in number, and business enterprises have at last launched countermeasures,” said Yoko Haruka, a TV celebrity well-versed in feminist ideology.
At a hotel in Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya district, 46 rooms on the 20th and 21st floors of the 25-story building are designated exclusively for women.
“Almost all the rooms have been booked since October,” said Hiroyuki Mizuno, room division manager of the Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu.
The hotel’s management decided to introduce women-only floors when the hotel opened last April in an effort to reduce the potential anxiety of female guests.
The hotel’s elevators only stop to let people out when keys for rooms on the relevant floors are used.
There are many clothing stores in the neighborhood, attracting hordes of businesswomen and female sightseers. “The ratio of women staying at our hotel is much higher than we had expected,” Mizuno said.
Last spring, the Daimaru department store in the busy Shinsaibashi area of Osaka introduced a women-only space measuring 400 sq. meters in its basement, which houses a beauty parlor and a nail-care salon, the first area of its kind introduced by a department store.
“We wanted women to be relaxed alone and become beautiful,” said a public relations official of Daimaru Inc., which runs the store. A women-only sign is posted at the entrance.
In October, Keihin Electric Express Railway Co. introduced women-only buses linking Shinagawa in Tokyo and Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture. These buses are popular because women can fix their makeup and use the washroom with ease. “Bookings for women-only buses are faster than those for other buses,” said Hideaki Sugiyama, assistant chief of the company’s transport section.
Keio Electric Railway Co., a Tokyo-based private railway, began operating late-night women-only cars in March in an effort to curb molestation incidents.
On a daily basis, Keio began running a women-only car on eight express and rapid service trains leaving Shinjuku Station after 11 p.m. This was after a survey showed 70 percent of its passengers favored the idea.
On April 18, Skymark Airlines Co. announced it will introduce a female-only seating section in May on its Tokyo-Fukuoka flights. The move comes in response to requests from women who say that sitting beside other women is more relaxing.
This section — the first of its kind for a Japanese airline — will consist of around 10 seats for females aged 12 or older on flights between Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Fukuoka airport.
The driving force behind the rapid proliferation of women-only spaces is not only a desire to comply with customer requests, but also securing more regular customers, industry analysts say.
Regarding the notion of reverse discrimination, TV celebrity Haruka is dismissive.
“Immediately after women get out of women-only spaces, they face a society patronized by men. Reverse discrimination is a term used by men who don’t recognize this.”
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